Plaque for WWII vets displayed at Oakland Mall

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published May 27, 2015

 The bronze plaque inscribed with the names of Hudson’s employees who served in World War II hangs near the elevators on the main floor of Macy’s at Oakland Mall.

The bronze plaque inscribed with the names of Hudson’s employees who served in World War II hangs near the elevators on the main floor of Macy’s at Oakland Mall.

File photo by Donna Agusti


Like the men and women who served in World War II — who often didn’t call attention to their sacrifice or service — a plaque with the names of J.L. Hudson store employees who served hangs in a quiet spot at Oakland Mall that could be easy to miss.

The plaque had been displayed inside the Macy’s store at Northland Center until the center’s closure in April due to lack of success and customer trends, according to Macy’s officials.

“We thought about what would be the right place and thought Oakland Mall was most appropriate,” said Andrea Schwartz, vice president for media relations and cause marketing for Macy’s north central region.

Hudson’s stores were rebranded by the parent company as Marshall Field’s in 2000 and were incorporated into Macy’s in 2006.

Macy’s hosted a rededication ceremony for the plaque at the Oakland Mall store May 19. Troy Mayor Dane Slater spoke at the event, which councilmen Dave Henderson and Ed Pennington, and Troy City Manager Brian Kischnick also attended.

Schwartz explained that Macy’s was hosting the ceremony to kick off its summer campaign, American Icons — a patriotic salute to the people, places and things that make America great.

As part of Macy’s American Icons campaign, Schwartz said, Macy’s will partner with the charity Got Your 6 to raise funds to support veterans. Macy’s customers raised money for veterans through a special savings program that day.

“It’s moving when you consider what the soldiers went through and how few we have left,” Henderson said. “It’s well worth seeing.”

The bronze plaque, inscribed with the names of 1,146 Hudson employees, including 31 men who lost their lives, hangs near the women’s shoe section on the main floor of the Oakland Mall store, near the elevators.

The 8-by-9-foot plaque was first erected in 1947 and hung in the downtown Detroit Hudson’s until the store closed in 1983. In 1993, the plaque was relocated to Macy’s at Northland, where it was displayed until that store closed earlier this spring.

Twins Erik and Otto Duweke, 92; John Symons, 99; and Donald Ulbrich, 92, former Hudson’s employees and WWII veterans whose names are inscribed on the plaque, were on hand for the May 19 ceremony.

Ulbrich hired on at Hudson’s as a stockboy in the women’s shoe department just six months before he joined the U.S. Army to serve in a combat engineer battalion in France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and England.

He returned home to Detroit and worked at the downtown Detroit Hudson’s for 44 years, retiring in 1987 from the payroll department, still working in the then-closed store in downtown Detroit with about 25 others. He also sold menswear and worked in the layaway department at the store.

“J.L. Hudson was a good company to work for,” Ulbrich said. “It’s a beautiful plaque.”

He said that several people whose names are inscribed on the plaque were his friends, including his best friend from his high school days at Eastern High School, now Martin Luther King Senior High School, on Mack and East Grand Boulevard in Detroit, from the class of ’40. The two remained friends until his friend’s death five years ago.

“I never really considered myself a hero,” Ulbrich said. “There were so many of us. We did what was expected of us. The real heroes were the 400,000 that didn’t come back.”

“It’s a great honor for the city of Troy to be involved in such a great dedication to those who served in World War II,” Slater said. “We’re very honored they chose Troy Macy’s at Oakland Mall to receive the plaque. I applaud Macy’s for continuing to honor those who served in World War II.”

Staff Writer Kayla Dimick contributed to this report.